Since 79% of smartphone owners between 18-44 claims to always be less than two hours away from their device, no wonder privacy is an increasing concern. Many online markets are in need of features that anonymizes and empowers users, when vulnerability and loss of control is as present as our smartphones. One such feature is anonymous calling. There are already many methods out there for anonymizing your phone calls, and various apps for the same purpose. Great and all, but why complicate things?
Before the airways of our cities are filled with drones or Self-driving Cars are running down the streets, we still have to rely on humans when delivering and receiving stuff. Amazon provides a one-hour delivery service called Prime Now in Manhattan since late 2014, after being challenged by on-demand services such as WunWun (now Alfred) and Postmates. Google Express Service has expanded their delivery offer, today covering San Francisco and Silicon Valley, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. Then there is Instacart, a growing niche player using a similar business model to Uber’s, offering grocery shopping and delivery on-demand.
These are just a few examples, but the problem that almost every on-demand delivery service is facing is, ironically, the logistics. Delivering stuff to the right place at the right time is still pretty costly, and the companies are therefore exploring alternative ways of making it possible.
Using “normal people” is one way. As in other sectors, co-creation and users as inventors, stakeholders and now contractors, is definitely on the rise. However, lower costs as well as increased speed and availability is being compromised by loss of control, decreased consistency and reliability. This makes privacy and trust a second common problem for all the on-demand delivery services.
Relying on humans as deliverers still requires strangers calling you or knocking on your door, and since these strangers are outsourced people, the anxiousness of giving their phone number out “to a stranger” reinforces. So, when businesses are being dispersed, safety needs to be assured, and one way of doing this is making anonymous calling possible, so that these “normal people” can reach each other without needing to expose their private contact information. The personal interaction starts and ends with the delivery.
Replacing employees with contractors is of course not exclusive for delivery companies, so the same issue can be observed within other on-demand service segments too. Take transportation companies like Uber, Lyft or SideCar! All three are disruptive game changers in many ways, being “urban logistics networks powered by everyday people”, “seamlessly connecting riders to drivers”, allowing users to “get picked up by a reliable community driver in minutes” and making “cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers” (quoting their websites). Yet, they’re all facing the problem of privacy between user and service provider.
It’s a paradox – bridging the urge of connecting “normal people” with each other for business, and simultaneously dealing with the existing threshold that comes with “throwing your phone number around”. Whether it’s about Uber, or “the Uber of X”, basic needs such as privacy have to be taken care of once the on-demand novelty has worn off, in order to stand up against competitors on a refined market, as well as attracting the late majority consumers to keep a growing business.
Another segment that could benefit from adding a privacy feature, such as anonymous in-app calling, are those dealing with more social, sweet and sensitive interactions… Dating apps. The market is now full of apps making it easier for singles to meet: Tinder, Siren, Hinch, and more! The stats show that the online dating stigma has almost gone, and the majority of Americans actually think it’s a good way to meet people. At the same time, only two out of three has gone on a physical date after trying it online. What’s the issue? If it’s not about the biases or the bad reputation, is it instead correlated with people feeling exposed?
The first one concerns pre-dating interaction, where anonymous calling simply gives the two users a chance to get to know each other a little bit better by voice, without the risk of exposure. You know, one out of five still considers online dating as desperate…
The second thing then concerns post-dating interaction. Drunk Tindering is a thing, and what if the promising player turns out to be a lie!? It’s a good chance that one (or both) wants to “casually move on”, without staying in touch or risking being dialed up later on. With the possibility of calling your flirt anonymously, no day-after anxiety about excessive phone number hand-out’s is needed and your privacy stays intact.
With the world turning mobile, our phone numbers might be the most precious thing we own. And like with all precious things, we want to keep it safe and sound, and away from intruders, annoyers, exploiters or forget-about-ers. But the subject of security sure isn’t sexy.
As on-demand becomes more popular, and dispersed working forces with it, delivery, transportation and dating are only three examples of areas that could add some serious value to their services by providing anonymous in-app calling. By enabling self-serviced anonymity, users can stop worrying about handing out their most precious possession to contractors or potential partners, and start using your service.
With that being said, could the fun and innovative on-demand market bring some spice to the subject, and make security sexy? Here’s hoping.
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